Poetic License


I wrote a poem.

And two weeks ago, I debuted that poem at The Association of Rhode Island Author‘s monthly “Lively Literati” poetry reading event in Cranston — and I wasn’t asked to leave.

Though I’ve dabbled, I have never considered myself to be a poet, preferring to leave all that esoteric meter, rhyme and verse nonsense to the beret-wearing, patchouli-sniffing crowd. I prefer the longer, more thoughtful forms of creative expression, like the novel, where you can procrastinate for decades and still be revered because people think you’re working on it.

But I was inexplicably inspired, and went ahead and wrote a poem anyway. And for better or worse, here it is. Warning: have a hanky ready, it gets pretty intense.


Ah, Autumn

Ah, autumn… You son of a bitch.
With the promise of cooler days,
And restful, peaceful, cricket-filled nights,
You wish away summer for us all,
Leaving in your wake a cold rain, sleet and the searing pain of a northwest wind,
No more comforting than the confused hand of a schizophrenic mistress.

Ah, autumn… You son of a bitch.
You deceive us with your dazzling displays of color,
The vibrant reds of the proud maple, the yellow hues of the comforting birch.
And now your vibrant colors have departed,
Stripping once majestic trees bare naked, exposing neighbors I’d hoped to forget.
And leaving my debris-filled yard to resemble  the ass-end of some joyous, drunken parade.

Ah, autumn… You son of a bitch. 
Speak to me of that legendary  blanket of majestic color,
That now sadistically cuddles my lawn like a warm, snuggly quilt,
Plotting to  suffocate it — dead.
And with oak leaves the size of dinner plates,
You then swathe the squishy surprise the dog left me after his early morning walk.

Ah, autumn… You son of a bitch.
Those people. Oh yes, you know those people.
You encourage those people who never leave their homes, and never raise their blinds.
Who reek of mulling spices and declare autumn to be their “favorite season.”
Yet as soon as the temperature drops precisely below 69.5 degrees,
They burrow into a wool sweater to whine of the terrible cold.
Only to declare spring to be their “favorite season.” Oh, shut up.

Ah, autumn… You son of a bitch.
And alas ’tis Halloween! Your signature moment arrives.
It is your holiday, veiled in an October cyclone of brown leaves that swirl above chilled, hidden puddles.
Giddy, misbehaving girls and boys in enabling costumes. Assurances of chocolate, sweets and treats!
Yet I get a bruised apple and a giant… stale… orange… marshmallow… peanut.
And a two-hundred dollar dental deductible.
And my pumpkin is missing.

Ah, autumn… You son of a bitch.
And so now the snow descends and hides evidence of your plunder.
Winter has mercifully pushed you aside. Even it doesn’t like you.
Ice. Snow. Slush. Hoarfrost. Flu.
Winter carries no pretense. It was designed by its creator to be evil.
Yet the heartless winter brings a December solstice that lengthens my days, and brings me hope,
And once again fills my spirit with dreams of the balmy summer sunshine that you stole from us all.

Good riddance,  autumn.
You are a son of a bitch.

~Steven R. Porter

1 Comment

Filed under poetry

Zombies Ate My Hostas: Taylor Swift and Other Indisputable Proof of the Inevitable Apocalypse


Hosta2

“Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.” — Roger The Shrubber

They insisted there was a perfectly natural explanation, that the damage wasn’t anything that should cause alarm. But I knew better. How else could you explain the gruesome demise of thirty young, healthy, vibrant hostas cut down in the prime of their lives — their tops gnawed clean off by one or more ravenous, undead savages.

Zombies. Yes, zombies. Vegetarian  zombies. Who knew?

Now where is CNN? Or Fox News? With a half dozen cable news channels chasing Miley Cyrus  around, you’d think they’d spare one of their washed-up, ethnically-ambiguous anchors to cover the most important story of this century. Their silence is deafening. And I fear it is all part of a larger, darker, more herbivoracious  conspiracy of swiftian proportions.

Now hey there, please don’t mistake me for one of those sc-fi channel watching nimrods posting zombie survival strategies on Reddit. I even watched AMC long before The Walking Dead made them hip and trendy, back in the nineties when they played  — movies. AMC was the cable channel every grandmother loved the grand kids to watch after their visit to the local podiatrist. How wonderful! We can watch the Brigadoon marathon together all afternoon while my bunions heal. And now generations of family therapists can never hope to profit from those precious, repressed memories.

Deer

Ticked off.

Yet, had the savage beheading of my cherished hostas been an isolated incident, I might be inclined to politely swallow this innocent explanation like a cracker full of lukewarm hummus. But no. At a recent cocktail hour in the presence of an abundance of passed appetizers,  I watched three adults who I presumed to be of sound mind and body, skip over scallop-wrapped bacon in favor of the spinakopita. Spinakopita? Really? Pass over the, luscious undisputed king of all cocktail hour delicacies in favor of…spinach? It was unnatural, and twisted, and instantly raised my acutely-sharpened suspicions perfected by hours of cable news watching.  Something was dreadfully wrong, here. But what was it? What had changed? What was the key? Something was perverting the meat-eaters of our nation, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it for the sake of innocent, professionally farmed and landscaped vegetation everywhere.

And then it struck me. (OK, so maybe that was just a backhand from the asylum nurse… but stay with me here.) I suddenly knew who was responsible for the carnage.

 Taylor Swift.

Making Waves.

Oh, I can hear your eyes rolling. But at the precise moment my hostas were first attacked,  Taylor Swift, the rich, famous, adorable and most beloved icon in the country music universe, uprooted her decadent, opulent life to move into a new home in (of all places) Westerly, Rhode Island.

Yes, Westerly. Seriously? Was it for the burgeoning surfing scene?

Now relocating to Westerly should have been suspicious enough —  even people from Rhode Island don’t go to Westerly —  but it was the  ever-present rumors of her vegetarianism that were far more telling and terrifying.  (Almost as terrifying, in fact, as one of those skeletal, teenage girls you see volunteering at seemingly EVERY veterinarian office with the pointy chins and giant foreheads. Eeek!)

hanging1

Oh my gourd.

There it was for all to see: armed security guards, beach patrols, paparazzi, helicopters and Taylor Swift cruising for pumpkins in the produce aisle at Narragansett’s Stop and Shop. These were not chance occurrences. As everyone knows, pumpkins are the least cerebral of all the garden vegetables. They are the village idiots of the backyard vegetable patch — profoundly bad parents who  allow their offspring to grow up in the most dangerous spots only to be  later left  to be degraded and humiliated by other species.  Unlike corn, a pumpkin is the perfect evil minion.

Bad seeds.

Bad seeds.

But corn is no innocent bystander. Corn, you see, is far more clever and not as easily manipulated. Corn fields act more like socialist news pundits with a well developed power to communicate. If you don’t believe me, read  Stephen King’s Children of the Corn or go watch Field of Dreams. And this was long before the agricultural biotech company Monsanto genetically engineered them into a vegetable master race. So when corn has something to say, you darn-well keep your ears open.  And once Ms. Swift arrived on the scene, Southern Rhode Island’s cornfields welcomed her with open arms.

Stalking a celebrity.

Now I don’t mean to give the traditional brain-eating zombies the cold shoulder (sorry), but I have learned that the vegetarian zombies are far more dangerous and elusive. You won’t find the conventional evidence of torn, blood-stained clothes and random chunks of human flesh scattered about. Instead they’ll sneak up on you ahead of a trail of Panera-acquired bread crumbs, latte cups, plantain chips and empty packages of gluten-free pasta. (It is important at this point to note that some vegan zombies don’t consider vegetarian zombies to be “real” zombies, but perhaps we can explore that in a subsequent post.)

It is evidence of the apocalypse, and it is coming. And if anyone driving a Mini Cooper tries to tell you that sun dried tomatoes make an excellent substitute for bacon, it may be too late. The apocalypse may well have arrived.

Hosta la vista, baby.

2 Comments

Filed under satire

Rhode Rules


It’s not that I haven’t been penning blog posts in recent months, it’s just that I haven’t been posting them to my own blog.

“Guest blogging” elsewhere brings with it many pluses and minuses. There’s no doubt it puts your work and voice in front of new audiences, but it also tends to leave your own blog vacant, dry and silently screaming for fresh content and visitors. Veteran bloggers tell me that the first rule of blogging is that if you have no content, then just trick someone else into writing a “guest post”  for you. And if no one is fool enough to accept your offer (as I frequently do), then simply re-post links to someone else’s work with the same enthusiasm that you might use if you had suddenly discovered Captain Kidd’s lost treasure. “Oh Wow..! Check out this unbelievable blog post on… blah… blah…. blah…”

Hmmm. But what if I could accomplish both? What if I invited myself to guest blog on my own blog, and then simply stole my own original content from somewhere else at the same time? Brilliant!

If there is no crying in baseball, and the first rule of fight club is do not talk about fight club — hey,wait. This is the Internet. There are no rules!

They're more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules...

They’re more like what you’d call guidelines than actual rules…

So without further ado, here are two of my blog posts originally published on Nebraska romance novelist Annette Snyder‘s nifty little blog, “Fifty Authors from Fifty States.” The first was published in September 2013, the other just a week ago.

“Oh Wow..! Check out these unbelievable blog posts on…”

BIG HAPPENINGS IN LITTLE RHODY (by Steven R. Porter) — September 30, 2012
I’m writing this piece near the mythical dark swamp of Chepachet, Rhode Island…”

IT’S A RHODE ISLAND THING (by Steven R. Porter) — August 25, 2013
 “Yo, nobody can’t tell me I don’t feel like no meatball grinder, me.”

But I must warn you. In a couple of weeks, this blog will be the only thing saving you all from the forthcoming zombie apocalypse. Stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Manisses


Manisses by Steven R. Porter

If you want to get technical, summer ends on September 21 each year. Therefore, my new summer novel Manisses is only a few weeks late…. so stop complaining.

“Manisses” is a Narragansett Indian term meaning “island of the little god” and refers to the island we all know and love now as Block Island. (For all you foreigners, Block Island lies just a few miles off the southern Rhode Island coastline.) Although the book’s setting is fictional, I draw on many of Block Island’s legends and true history to bring you the story of the allegedly clairvoyant Clement Bradford, his family, a missing child, and a strange little doll named Otto.

The inspiration for this novel came from many sources, but the setting was selected after I visited the island myself last year. Block Island might be the most historic place you have never heard of, and has played a supporting role in almost every major historic moment our country has experienced. Even most locals aren’t aware of the island’s significance. It made for an ideal setting.

This novel is my second — the first being Confessions of the Meek and the Valiant. Response to my first novel was so overwhelming I couldn’t wait to try it again. Writing fiction is a blast. The book is available in paperback now from Amazon, and in most e-book formats around the web. It will be in bookstores soon. Enjoy!

Manisses
1-47835-480-1
Paperback: $17.00
e-book: $4.99

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, e-books

Literary Illusions


Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores

Slow Death of a Salesman

In April, author Jen Campbell released a book in the U.K. entitled, Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores. It is based on her firsthand experiences as a bookseller in independent bookshops in North London and Edinburgh.

Anyone familiar with my background knows that back in the eighties and nineties, I spent many a day patrolling the perilous, shark-infested aisles of bookshops around New England in a variety of roles with the defunct Lauriat’s Bookstore chain.  Through those years, I kept a notebook that chronicled many of the half-witted, stupid, inane, crazy and downright mind-boggling requests customers would fire at us each day. Those notes, sadly, were tossed into the dumpster of retail antiquity many moons ago.

It would not be fair to say that this book was my idea first. (Though, I’ll take the credit if anyone wants to give it to me.) In truth, several of my bookselling associates proposed the very same thing — and we enjoyed one-upping each other with tales of stupid, much the same way, I would imagine, a bunch of grizzled North Shore fishermen might compare their day’s biggest catch. We all had the idea and chance to write this book first and we all blew it. Shame on us.

Lauriat's Bookstores

Shopping Mauled

Two weeks ago, The Overlook Press put out a call to U.S. booksellers asking for submissions for an American edition of Weird Things… due this fall. It got me reminiscing, and I was able to recover several anecdotes from deep within the recesses of my brain — funny how it also starts coming back to y0u. (To paraphrase Woody Allen, my brain is one of my favorite organs.) Below, I have listed those I submitted to The Overlook Press for inclusion in the new edition. Maybe they will see print, maybe not. Either way, sadly, I can personally guarantee they all happened. And there were witnesses.

———-

CUSTOMER — My daughter needs a book for school. I think it starts with the letter “S.”
ME — Hmmm. Hard to say. There are so many.
CUSTOMER — I know. I’m sorry. But the teacher said every bookstore would have it.
ME — Well, how about this one here by Edward Rutherford. It’s called Sarum and just came  out last week in paperback. It’s on the bestsellers list.
CUSTOMER — (Puzzled) No. She’s only in the 8th grade. This looks too old for her. And I think the book had something to do with dinosaurs.
ME —  Our dinosaur books are over here, but I don’t have one that starts with the letter “S.”
CUSTOMER — Oh wait… I think I wrote it down. (Rummages through handbag) Yes! Here it is! It’s  called SaurusThe- Saurus.

———-

CUSTOMER — Do you have Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Hound?

———-

CUSTOMER — Where are your dinosaur books?
ME — Right over here, ma’am.
CUSTOMER — These are awful. They are all full of paintings and drawings. Where are the ones with the photographs?

———-

CUSTOMER — Can you help me? This is my son’s reading list for school. Where would I find these?
ME — There are 20 books on the list. And they are in several sections throughout the store.
CUSTOMER — Is there any way you could gather them together so I can decide which one to buy?
ME — Sure…
ME — (After spending 10 minutes running around the store.) Here are all the books from the list, ma’am.
CUSTOMER — Thank you so much. (Lines the books across the counter.) My son doesn’t like to read.  So I’ll take this one — it’s the thinnest.

_________

CUSTOMER — Do they make Cliff’s Notes for this video?

__________

CUSTOMER — Can you direct me to the blue books?
ME — I’m sorry, we don’t have them arranged by color. Do you know the title?
CUSTOMER —  Oh, I don’t care about the title. I just remodeled my bathroom and I need it to match.

__________

ME — I’m sorry, we don’t have this book in stock. Can I order a copy for you?
CUSTOMER — I need it right away. Could you call the Barnes & Noble across the street for me and see if they have it?
ME — Ma’am, they are our competitor.
CUSTOMER — I understand. When you call, just don’t tell them who you are.

__________

CUSTOMER — Thank goodness! I walked all over the mall looking for this bookstore!
ME — Well, welcome to the store! I’m glad you found us. Were you looking for a particular title today?
CUSTOMER — Oh, I don’t read. (unbuttoning her blouse.) I just need a quiet place to breastfeed my baby.

__________

CUSTOMER — The recipe for chow mein in this book was too salty. Do you have one with less soy sauce?

__________

CUSTOMER –  I need a very specific repair manual for Evinrude outboard motors.
ME — I’m sorry sir, but it looks like that book is out of print.
CUSTOMER — If you were a good bookstore, you’d just call the publisher and have them print one for me.

——–

CUSTOMER — Where do you keep the true fiction?

———

ME – (Phone rings) Good morning, this is Lauriat’s Books.
CUSTOMER — Hello. Do you have Sidney Sheldon’s Memories of Midnight in stock?
ME — Yes ma’am, we do. I have one right here.
CUSTOMER — Oh that’s great. I misplaced my copy and it’s snowing. Could you just read the last chapter over the phone? I can’t wait to find out how it all comes out.

———-

CUSTOMER — I simply refuse to pay for the whole cookbook if I’m only going to use one recipe.

———-

CUSTOMER — I’d like to return this book by Stephen King. I read the whole thing and I wasn’t scared once.

———-

CUSTOMER — Do you have 1984 by George Orwell?
ME — Yes we do. It’s right over here.
CUSTOMER — Have you read it?
ME — Yes I have. In fact, it’s one of my favorite books.
CUSTOMER — That’s great. Could you summarize it quickly for me then? My exam is in an hour.

———-

CUSTOMER —  Excuse me, are you hiring?
ME — Yes. We are looking for a part-time bookseller.
CUSTOMER — Great! How do I apply? I need a quiet place to work where nobody bothers me and I can get my homework done.  This place looks perfect.

6 Comments

Filed under Books

For Better or Verse


Local author and poet Jeanpaul Ferro‘s recent, critically acclaimed collection, Jazz, is now available online or from your favorite bookstore. As part of the promotional effort, Britain’s Honest Publishing asked guest authors to read and record selections from the book. Jeanpaul was kind enough to invite me to participate, and always willing to jump at a shameless promotional opportunity, I accepted.

I must admit it was a bit out of my comfort zone, but it was fun nonetheless.

Best of luck to Jeanpaul and his continued success.

Leave a comment

Filed under e-books

The Kanc – a short story


My new short story available now!

Good news!

My new novel, Manisses, is still on schedule for a summertime release. With a little luck and if the wind remains to my back, it will be ready as promised.

But in the meantime, here is a short story I sketched out years ago. It was inspired by a trip I took along The Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire in a snowstorm, late for a meeting. I was convinced that road was out to get me.

The story is only 6,000 words long and has a significant historical element to it. It is only .99 cents in e-book form.

It is available for Nook and also available for Kindle.

Thank you and enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under e-books